MONTREAL -- COVID-19 has put a temporary stop to swimming lessons in Montreal, but a group of instructors are hoping to re-start, saying it's a matter of public safety.

On Saturday, the usually busy Dorval Aquatic Centre was quiet. Though open, few swimmers were around, as programs such as swimming lessons have been suspended for the second time in 2020.

Montreal Institute of Swimming President Adam Di Fulvio said a lack of lessons is contributing to an increase in drownings in Quebec this year.

“Nobody has been having proper swim lessons since March,” he said.

Raynald Hawkins, executive director of the Quebec branch of the Lifesaving Society, noted the numbers are up so far.

“We know we had 88 drownings this summer, unofficially, with close to 60 last year,” he said.

Hawkins said a lack of lessons has not been province to have contributed to the increase. Rather, he pointed to people looking to cool off at unsupervised sites.

“They were alone, because they didn't wear a life jacket and because they were non-swimmers could be a factor involved with those drowning situations,” he said.

But Hawkins and Di Fulvio agreed that lessons are essential to staying safe in the water.

“To follow a learn-to-swim program, I think is a minimum requirement for everyone when they want to be in the water,” said Hawkins. “If they're a non-swimmer, you need to wear personal flotation devices all the time.”

Di Fulvio has been lobbying for a resumption of swimming lessons.

“For the first time ever, swim clubs across Quebec have united to solicit and petition the government to allow a return to swim,” he said. “We've reached out to the government and federations to push our message of why we should return to swim as soon as possible.”

He added that small groups will keep swimmers safe in more than one way.

“From June to October, when we had our first swim clubs, we taught over 10,000 swim classes across Quebec without a single documented (COVID-19) outbreak,” he said. “This is partly because of the government, the protocols work. So give us the opportunity to do it again.”